Thursday, March 31, 2011

Six Benefits of Agent Representation

by Cat Woods

I started my query journey differently than most of the Write Angle Crew. Before I focused on juvenile literature, I wrote for adults. I mostly penned and published short stories, poetry, essays and articles. I even had a monthly column in a fourteen county newsletter. For those projects, I submitted directly to editors.

When I began my juvenile lit journey, I continued this pattern and submitted my book manuscripts directly to editors. I’d heard that securing an agent was more difficult than securing a publishing deal. I also wanted to remain in control. Not to mention, a super-teeny part of me wanted closed publishing houses to lament their lost shot at my writing. Not my shining moment, I admit, but honesty isn’t often pretty.

At one point, I stumbled across AgentQuery Connect where several astute writers convinced me to check out the agent route. I did, liked what I saw and gained a whole new respect for agents, editors and even those stubbornly closed publishing houses.

So, what are the benefits of securing an agent versus subbing solo?

In my experience:
  1. My agent is contract savvy. I’m not, and don’t pretend to be. Not unless we’re talking potty training or preschool curriculum.
  2. He has inside contacts. I don’t. The closest publishing “in” I have is sitting two pews away from the owner of the local newspaper.
  3. He’s industry savvy. What I know about the writing biz would fill one paragraph of a twenty-seven-chapter novel. In this rapidly changing climate, I can’t possibly advocate for my best interests.
  4. I’m still shocked by this, but my agent loves my writing. Okay, that makes two of us, but his support and enthusiasm are amazing and inspiring on many levels.
  5. He was an editor. Me? Not so much. While I’ve got a pretty good grasp of the mechanics, I love having my manuscripts perused with a keen eye toward plot, character and story arc. I’m a better writer for my agent’s suggestions and carefully posed questions.
  6. He has time to shop my writing. With my busy personal and professional life, I have precious few moments to devote to my craft. Having an agent frees up my time and allows me to be a writer.

In your experience, what are the pros and cons to securing an agent? What can an agent do for you that you can’t accomplish on your own?


The Adventures of Razor and Edge said...

Hi, Cat:

There are alI sorts of opinions about what agents should be doing for us writers. I thought you might find Dean Wesley Smith's on-line book about many aspects of publishing helpful, I know i have.

With the world of publishing going through radical changes we have to keep ourselves educated so we can deal with these changes in a clear business like manner.

I wish you much continued success.

Russ Hart

Cat Woods said...


You are very right. As the landscape of publishing changes, so will our roles as writers, as well as our agent's.

However, I believe the good agents will maintain their presence in the future of publishing. The agent/writer relationship isn't going anywhere. It will just be restructured as needed to accomodate the shift that e-publishing is bringing to the forefront.

I'll check out your book rec. and appreciate you stopping by with a comment. Insights in the future are always welcome.

Thanks~ Cat

natasha Kern said...

This was interesting but hardly scratches the surface of what agents do for writers like: handling foreign and film rights sales; helping to develop in-house and outside marketing plans and PR as well as online resources; supporting the author through industry and house upheavals like her editor leaving or changing houses; Getting Covers redesigned; Rewriting blurbs/Press Releases; Having a good team – lawyers, publicists, web designers; subagents throughout the world; career development-- what to write next and why; contract terminating and reversion of rights;d eciding what to do if a publisher cancels your book; what happens if the Author gets sick or has family problems and can't meet her deadline?; ensuring payments are correct and obscure statements are understood; collecting late or incorrect payments;keeping up to date on industry changes; auditing publishers; suing publishers if there are serious problems.Managing the author’s estate and working with heirs; working with disposition of income in the event of divorce or other legal issues; Backlist publication and recommending options to keep income stream working --- need I go on?? This seems so familiar because it comes up so often at conferences that new or unpublished writers think all that agents do is handle deals-- and there are a few who are only dealmakers but that isn't what you are paying your 15% for.
Natasha Kern, an agent who just happened to come across this post

RSMellette said...

I was about to say... then I read Natasha's comment.

For screenwriters, agents aren't so much about getting your first project sold, but making sure you get paid. When a box office bonus triggers or a participations deadline approaches, agents are on the phone to those Hollywood Creative Accountants (which I've been a time or two) to make sure they're reading the contracts correctly.

catwoods said...


Thanks so much for weighing in here. I love hearing from professionals and appreciate how succinctly you expanded on my points.

Now more than ever it is vital for writers to understand the ins and outs of the publishing business, assess their needs and determine which path is best for them.

Again, thanks for commenting.